How To Be a Positive Person
Want to have a great 2014? Here’s how positive people will ensure their happiness this year.
One. They will celebrate the little wins. Many times we attach our happiness to big ticket items – a promotion, a new car, buying a house, or getting married. But researchers in the field of positive psychology have found that size doesn’t matter; it’s quantity that makes a difference. Over and over again, research has proven that people who stop to write down three things they are happy about, or thankful for, at the end of each day score much higher on the Life Satisfaction Scale than people who don’t do this exercise. In fact research has found that doing this every day for just three months will bump up your happiness significantly; do it for six months and your score will go up even more.
Case in point, I did a five week long training last year and in the first week I asked attendees to do this exercise. In week four one attendee mentioned that the day before she’d been out gardening and decided to stop and think of her three items. She realized she was thankful for her 18 year old cat that happened to stroll by at that moment. It was then that she realized she’d never stopped to be thankful for her dear old cat, and the exercise was indeed making her happier and more content. She said she could feel it really working.
Two. They will have strong connections and avoid negative people. Birds of a feather flock together. Happy people hang out with other happy people. They have a strong social network of friends, family and neighbors because these strong connections act as a buffer for sad times and will support them when life gets hard. We pick up the emotions of people around us – called emotional contagion – so if you spend your day hanging around people who talk like they are victims, who blame the world, who are unhappy at their jobs and in life, they will bring you down.
What if you can’t avoid negative people because you work with them? Do your best to limit your interactions with them as best you can. If they start to complain about something, kindly let them know you have challenged yourself to focus on the positive this year, and that you are trying to avoid negative talk. Hopefully they will respect your wishes.
Three. They will use positive language. Positive people talk the talk. If they fail at something, for example, they don’t talk to themselves about failing. Rather, they talk to themselves about what they learned and how they will improve next time. Seeing failure for what it is – a learning opportunity – helps positive people grow and achieve success.
Happy people also take responsibility for their mistakes. You won’t hear a positive person complain that something wasn’t their fault. They will take full responsibility for their problems, because only then can the problems be resolved.
Positive people also dream big. Their self-talk is focused on how they will accomplish goals, not on what will keep them from achieving those goals. Conversations about roadblocks are like solving puzzles, not about complaining. Finally, positive people accept what cannot be changed. Happy people learn to accept injustices and setbacks, and put their energy towards changing what they can control.
Four. They will see hard times as challenges they can overcome, not circumstances they can’t control. What most people would call a problem, a positive person would call a challenge. Positive people believe obstacles are an opportunity to learn what they are capable of.
During these past few years, for example, as I’ve been meeting people who were laid off and looking for a new job, I noticed that these job seekers fell into two categories. Some of them blamed the economy and their old workplace for the problems they were facing now that they were unemployed. Others saw being laid off as an opportunity to find a better job doing something they loved. The ones who were up for the challenge of job hunting, and who didn’t blame outside forces for their situation, were the ones who found jobs! I think we can guess that the interviewers noticed their optimism and ability to overcome a challenge.
Five. They will say thank you, and really mean it. Positive psychologists have linked gratitude to the ability to cope with stress. Thankful people have more positive emotions, are more satisfied with life, experience greater optimism, have better physical health, and are better able to reach their goals than people who are not thankful for what they have.
One study found that when subjects were asked to deliver a message of gratitude to a person who has been important to them, they reported an increase in their happiness that lasted for about a month.
And, people tend to view individuals who regularly show gratitude as generous, caring and pleasant. In essence, gratitude makes you happy, and it makes your interactions with others more pleasant, which in turn makes you even more happy.
Six. They will set goals and achieve them. Some people sit around and wish they could accomplish this or achieve that. Positive people sit down at their desk and plan out exactly what their steps are. They write down a specific plan that includes benchmarks, dates, resources, and whatever else they might need to keep track of their achievement. They hold themselves accountable to reaching their goals. When you reach a goal, your self-esteem gets a bump, and healthy self-esteem is part of being happy.